A friend of mine e mailed me a link to a somewhat absurd article that seemed to claim that there hasn't been a good private eye writer since the era of Chandler and Hammett. And my God the claims the writer made for Chandler. Fawning praise that turned ridiculous in places.
I won't go through my usual litany of Chandler's shortcomings as I see them. He was a wonderful stylist and storyteller but with few exceptions his characters were straight from B movies and his vaunted tour of LA seems (again to me) shallow when compared to Nathaneal West, John Fante or even William Saroyan. I might even throw in John K. Butler whose stories about a cabbie gave us some good Polaroids of the place and era. Compared to Hammett he knew zero about his mean streets.
I say all this with some regret because reading Chandler (and rereading Chandler as I frequently do) has given me so much pleasure. Virtually all of us who work in the form have learned from him. He's the giant; the head of the class. That I don't argue.
But when you compare him to the private eye writers who came out of the second world war and who spawned the generations that followed--this is the Golden Age of the private eye novel. Writers who write about reality from James Crumley to Loren Estleman and Marcia Muller and Harry Hunsicker.
I don't want to start ranting so I'll sign off.